As I write, the beautiful garden of the British Residence is bathed in sunlight and I can see the golden dome of Les Invalides glinting in the distance.
Summer has finally arrived and, across the country, many are heading off on a well-deserved holiday.
It is, of course, another strange summer. While some measures have eased, many restrictions remain in place, including on movement between France and the UK.
Last month, the British government announced that it would not be possible, for now, to lift the requirement for people fully vaccinated through the NHS to quarantine on arrival in the UK from France. This is because of the presence of the Beta variant here, including in mainland France.
I know this was disappointing for so many of you who have not seen family and friends in the UK for many, many months – my heart goes out to you. I can assure you that the British government keeps these measures under very close review.
Here, my family and I are surrounded by packing cases, getting ready to move on after nearly five years in Paris.
This will be my last column for The Connexion, and I want to thank you for reading it – and to The Connexion for offering me the chance for us to be in touch each month through its pages.
So much has happened over the last five years, it is hard to know where to begin. Our departure from the EU has, of course, loomed large – whether in the many hours spent in discussion with colleagues in the Elysée or across the French government, in the numerous visits I have made to Calais, or in the hundreds of meetings I have held with so many of you across France or online. I hope those have been of some help.
Support for British citizens living in France is going to stay a vital part of this Embassy’s work in the years to come. If you have not yet applied for a Withdrawal Agreement residence card, please do so now. Although the June 30 deadline has passed, the French government website is still open and the UK Nationals Support Fund continues to help those who need it. Please apply by September 30 at the latest. I am pleased that we have also been able to negotiate an agreement with France on driving licences.
It has been a huge honour to serve as the British Ambassador over the last five, not entirely uneventful, years. My family and I will be taking with us a kaleidoscope of memories of this amazing country and of the strong bonds between us. The 80th anniversary of de Gaulle’s Appel last year, as the Red Arrows and the Patrouille de France flew over both our capitals. The countless ceremonies it has been my privilege to attend in honour of all those who fell in defence of our liberty.
The new British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer. Visits by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to Nice and Lyon, or the visit by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge for the launch of our Les Voisins campaign.
Our Franco-British Young Leaders programme. My visits to so many businesses, nourishing the ties of commerce between our nations.
Above all, I think of the thousands of miles I have travelled to all corners of this country, of the warm welcome I have always received from so many French and British people. That is the story of our Franco-British friendship; this living, breathing, complex relationship that is of such import-ance to both our countries and our people.
Now we are embarking on a new chapter.
It will be a wrench to leave this job; I still have the same sense of excitement each morning as I did when I started, the same belief in how much our countries can – and will – achieve together in the years to come; the same commitment to the ties that bind us that I see every day in my three young Franco-British children.
'I am fortunate to be handing over to a fantastic successor, Menna Rawlings, the first female Ambassador to France'
I want to say thank you to my dedicated, talented team at the Embassy and our consulates.
I wish Menna good luck and every success, and I know you will give her the same warm welcome you have given me.
But above all, all the very best to you for the future – and thank you.